He’s one of the most recognizable faces on the planet currently, but back in the day, Rob Pattinson’s visage was pretty obscure. In fact, before he exploded into the public eye, the actor had only starred in a few films, the most recent of which was 2012’s much-maligned adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
Shakespeare’s story of mistaken identities and ill-fated romances unfolds in a comic book-like fashion, which director John Madden—known for his Oscar-nominated turn behind the camera—explains led to some creative editing tricks.
“We realized we could bring more of a cinematic language to the task of adapting the play, and make it more exciting and cinematic,” he told us in a recent interview. “We did it in a way where it didn’t feel like you were watching a stage play. You were watching a movie.”
With a screenplay by David Mamet and a narrative that switches between scenes that take place before, during, and after the main events of Much Ado About Nothing, the film makers were able to craft a more cinematic experience for viewers, even if the result is a bit baffling.
And while it didn’t generate much buzz or positive reviews upon its 2012 release, it’s evident that Madden and company did something right.
Pattinson’s performance as Benedick, the mischievous yet lovable rogue who clashes with Borzoi-like Don Pedro, was praised by critics in particular. Even now, after years of screen time, many still regard Pattinson as one of the most promising young British actors working today.
There’s clearly a lot more to the 26-year-old actor than simply his on-screen talent. Whether he’s taking on leadership roles in upcoming films or stepping behind the camera himself as a director, writer, or producer, he’s constantly engaged with the entertainment industry, proving that he’s got plenty of ambition and drive.
So, as you might guess, we decided to look into Rob Pattinson’s life and work to uncover the many secrets behind this unique celebrity.
A Life Lived Bipolarly
It’s been a rocky road for Rob Pattinson. After dropping out of university, the actor spent the first decade of his career pursuing a career in acting, appearing in smaller independent films and a few prominent TV series. His early work featured heavily in his native U.K., leading to a string of high-profile appearances including the 2009 film version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and the 2010 BBC miniseries Bleak House.
Then, in 2011, the actor’s life took a dramatic turn. While filming the TV series Copper, Pattinson was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He went on to publicly share his diagnosis and story of recovery in the bestselling memoir I Am Not Myself These Days, co-written with Myles Jackman.
The book’s central thesis is that mental illness is far more common than most people are willing to acknowledge, and that those who are affected don’t necessarily deserve to be stigmatized. In fact, according to Jackman, Pattinson actively worked to destigmatize mental illness during his recovery phase, even appearing in a YouTube video explaining his experience to younger viewers.
Shortly after the book’s publication, Pattinson received a much-deserved SAG Award for best supporting actor in a comedy or drama series. Since then, the actor has taken on several high-profile projects, most notably the final season of the Netflix series The Defenders and the upcoming film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile.
A Family Treasure Hunt
Though Rob Pattinson has been racking up the acting awards and headlines in recent years, the family-oriented actor has maintained a fairly low profile when it comes to his personal life. For the most part, he’s kept a fairly traditional family life, with his partner, Grace Hall, frequently appearing in public with him and their three children. (They’re parents to Alexander, 12, and Mia, 10, as well as Apollo, 9.)
Still, even when Pattinson isn’t working, he’s often found with his head in a book. He told Vogue in a 2016 interview that he reads multiple books a week and that his bedtime reading ritual involves staying up until midnight, just to make sure he catches all the exciting parts. While he may not always want to talk about his work, his passion for words and reading certainly comes through in his interviews. He also has a remarkable ability to recall plot points and characters’ backstories from the films he’s starred in, which his ability to multi-task clearly comes from.
A Director, Writer, And Producer
While his acting career took off in the 2000s, leading to his aforementioned SAG Award, Rob Pattinson has been steadily expanding his portfolio. In addition to acting, the actor has become quite the full-stack producer, with credits including co-producing the thriller The Midnight Man and writing and directing the upcoming sci-fi thriller Killswitch.
Pattinson also has a hand in the storytelling behind some of the biggest films of the past decade. He produced the Harry Potter films, co-produced Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and was one of the producers of the Twilight Saga. While most producers seek to limit their involvement to the most essential elements of a project, the increasingly-multi-hyphenate Pattinson has made his mark by getting involved at every level of production, from development through to post-production. (He also directed one episode of the BBC television series White Bear, which was based on a novella by Roald Dahl.)
That knack for getting involved and knowing how to manage a large number of people certainly came in handy during the production of the final season of The Handmaid’s Tale. For six months, Pattinson oversaw an entire series from a distance, while remaining actively involved in the creative process as a writer and executive producer. (He also served as an executive producer on the 2017 series The Defenders and is attached to the similarly-themed series The Oath.)
A Director’s Cut Of Much Ado About Nothing
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Rob Pattinson’s career is its ongoing evolution. While some actors simply hit a plateau and then spend the rest of their career treading water, the multi-hyphenate continues to search for new ways to challenge himself, evolve as an artist, and stay relevant.
The result is a career that defies easy description, as Pattinson rarely plays the same role twice and continues to push the boundaries of his craft, experimenting with new methods and media as he explores new worlds.
Take 2017’s much-acclaimed film Duma, which saw Pattinson take on dual roles—once as a father and then again as a husband—in a single, emotionally taxing episode. The acclaimed drama was the actor’s second collaboration with the Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland, following 2012’s much-maligned adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. That experience led to Holland offering to direct a more streamlined version of the classic Much Ado About Nothing for television. The resulting two-part mini-series, which premiered last year in the U.K. and has since been airing in other countries, features Pattinson playing both Benedick and Don Pedro, though not necessarily in that order. (He serves as executive producer on the series along with Dutch director Frida [The House of Gucci] and the production company Silver Syndicate.)
In the new version, some of the jokes and scenes are streamlined in order to fit the hour-long format, while others are completely excised, (including one of the most memorable moments from the 2012 film, in which Don Pedro is shaving off his eyebrows, only to discover a tattoo of a panther, which becomes a running joke throughout the episode). Still, much of what made the original version of Much Ado About Nothing so unique and exciting—from its daring narrative structure to its witty dialogue—remains intact.
The Mental Illness Conversation
One of the reasons why Rob Pattinson’s story resonates with so many people is because he’s such an open book when it comes to discussing his career and personal life. His ability to discuss his experience of bipolar disorder with such candor, even at this early stage of his recovery, is a testament to his honesty and integrity, (which is also something he talks about in his book).
It’s also important to note that mental illness isn’t something that just anyone wants to bring up in conversation. Even those who are close to the actor admit that, when asked about his condition, he often gives a quick and embarrassed laugh, followed by a deadpan stare, as if silently asking, “Is that it? Am I being stigmatized?”